M&S

Job losses caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will worsen regional inequality in the UK, Labour has warned.

The party said areas with high percentages of workers in the sectors hardest hit by lockdown measures – aviation, retail and manufacturing – would feel the effects of job losses the most.

The government said it is committed to “levelling up opportunities” across the UK.

Analysing official figures, 10% of people in the north west of England work in retail, the highest proportion of anywhere in the UK, followed by Wales and the north east of England. In recent weeks, some of the country’s biggest names like Marks & Spencer, Debenhams, John Lewis and Boots have all announced thousands of job cuts.

The east Midlands has roughly 13% of its workforce in the manufacturing sector, where 8,500 people have already lost their job since the start of the pandemic.

Labour did admit, however, that London would be the worst affected by aviation and travel sector job losses.

The party called on the government to end its ‘one size fits all’ approach to ending the furlough scheme. Nearly 10 million workers have had their wages paid by the government since the pandemic began, but the Chancellor Rishi Sunak has insisted that the scheme will come to an end in October.

Labour is calling for a tailored and staggered approach to ending the furlough scheme to prevent regional inequality growing.

Jonathan Reynolds, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “We are in the midst of a jobs crisis right across the UK but these figures show certain areas are more at risk than others.

“The government’s one-size-fits-all approach will see some communities hit harder and they must adopt a more tailored approach now if we are to avoid further job losses.”

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